This morning I was asked by my daughter's preschool teacher to make 15 giant gingerbread cookies for the kids to decorate next week.
I said no.
Some beautiful lady close by immediately volunteered to do it, and good for her, for feeling up to the challenge, and for stepping forth.
I know the truth. She was a gift.
However, now I am sitting here feeling what resembles guilt.
I'm sitting here wondering why the no was so automatic.
I knew instantly that making cookies that big would stress me out. I knew I'd never made gingerbread cookies before, and it would be experimental.
Images of making small sugar cookies with the girls flashed in my mind. Stressful. Not something I want to take on when I might be able to cook only two or three cookies on a pan at a time, and keep them unbroken as I handled them with care, which usually brings out the klutz in me.
I remember watching my mom bake a gingerbread house from scratch. My memory says it took all day. I remember pieces cracking when handling them out of the oven. Traumatic. Don't get me wrong, my mom was in the zone, but I felt like I was a stranger in a strange land where I didn't belong, and very separate from the experience; watching in awe, the kitchen churning for hours as she cut out the pieces from a gingerbread house pattern, and assembled it.
It looked HARD. I'd take 2x4's and nails any day over building with gingerbread. The kitchen was a major construction zone with big machines. Okay, so, maybe I exaggerate a little, but it is true that I have never had the use for a high horse power cake mixer.
What I don't remember is ever wishing that it could be me, there, constructing out of cookie. No, anyone else could have it.
So, the automatic no today, may have come from my fear--my conditioning, or my awareness that this isn't a gift I can easily give. I didn't need to take on the stress of having to possibly remake cookies over and over to get 15 decoratable ones without lost limbs, or worse, decapitation. I have a lot going on in my life--(or in my mind), and pulling off this stunt is one thing that I know I can't do right now.
So, now how to deal with the feelings of inadequacy, of judgement I might be facing from others, or mostly from myself.
If I were asking someone to make gingerbread cookies, and they said no, I wouldn't think twice about it. Great, I would think, they know their limitations, good for them. I would say, "No problem. I get it. Don't worry, because we'll use your gifts sometime, I'm sure of it!"
So, then why is part of me giving myself lashings for this--even for the fact that I've never made them before. How could that be?! I should be a pro! You haven't lived until you've mastered the art of gingerbread cookies. (Could this be true--what if it is?!).
You could have done it. You are a coward. And now they are going to know that you are not a domestic goddess. (oh, no!) They are going to look at you funny, and when they talk about who is going to bring the Valentine's cookies, which you could pull off, they won't even consider you. You have failed. You've fallen in the outs. Not to mention that you might have had fun making them with your kids. You would have stumbled on the perfect recipe. They would have tasted wonderful. You would have been dancing around the kitchen in a vintage apron, your kids singing Christmas carols, and you joking about the gingerbread man taking off running out of the oven. You had the opportunity to experience domestic bliss, and you blew it. You missed out, and you ruined your reputation, and you didn't support your child's school. You are a loser. You should have said yes.
There is the image of this giant gingerbread cookie waving his fists at me, popping buttons off himself in all his rage, abruptly untying his bow tie that is suddenly choking him, frosting melting and dripping down his swollen forehead.
I give him a gingerbread electric guitar.
BOWOWOWOOUUUM! (Electric guitar sound)
SHWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE (moving up the scale)
SCREEWOOOOSCREEWOOOOSCREEEWOOOOSCREEEEECHH (highest notes on the guitar, trilling).
BIBILIE BIBILIE BIBILIE BIBILIE BIBILIE BIBILIE BIBIBABA BAAAABEEEEEBOOOOOO (intricate figuration down the fingerboard).
Just what he needed. I walk off leaving him jamming out, and unjamming the essential. Might even keep some of his buttons now.
Knew what he needed...is it possible that I knew what I needed? Could there be cause for celebration?
The truth: When she asked me, it was fear that surfaced, but as I write this, there is something inside of me that wants to allow for the possibility that a certain truth came forth in the moment, that I said no, because of all this work that I've been doing. The simple truth being that I can no longer force myself to do something that doesn't feel good.
And then there was the instant gift right after I said no! This beautiful woman, who said she would do it. Can I see the gift in asserting my truth in that moment, and allowing the universe to have it covered?
Can I embrace a gentler time in my life, of NOT doing what I am supposed to do when it hurts? How many years have I done what I was supposed to do, and felt myself caving in, because I couldn't tell the truth about what I needed.
Just gingerbread cookies, you say! And I say, there is always one more batch of something. There is always putting yourself last, for one more thing--just one more time--until you sort of disappear, until your dreams lie fallow, until you lose yourself in whatever is your escape of choice (in my case, not gingerbread cookies). And what is left besides your commitment to helping to perpetuate the emptiness of all the lies?--all the disconnect, because somewhere along the way, we learned we could lie, and we forgot about the power of truth-- that it could set us free, just became a pretty cliche.
Goes back to getting in trouble with our folks. Lying was the only option to avoid all that anger and disapproval. (pause--thinking of how I perpetuate this fear in my kids ALL the time to gain control--all in all teaching them to lie to save face and avoid punishment).
Now part of me knows that these women understand me, and if they don't, part of me knows it isn't my issue.
My good friend was there, and told the teacher how she appreciated my honesty. It meant everything to me to have her support. She even said she would send me an email to see how I was doing, to see if I had released the guilt, or let it grow. Another gift--someone who was there resonated with me telling the truth--another gift. Am I going to keep this gift, or let it run out of the sieve of my mind, that often can only hold the dense, the dark, and the chastising!
Nope, I'm keeping this gift.
I want to say that I hope that I am forging a new path for all of the women involved. I want to live in a world where giving comes from my heart, and not from my head, that is afraid of what people will think if I say no.
So, in saying no today, I embrace what I can do--and I know that filling up a plate with things I have to suffer through, even if it is just in my mind, is something that I can't do anymore.
I'm ready to share the gifts that I can bring--to cart them down from the attic, dust them off, and bring them back to life.
The good news is that I can bring 4 cans of frosting, or candies to decorate the super size guys. I can do that!!
The really good news is that I might have even opened up a space to make mammoth gingerbread cookies one day in peace and harmony--knowing that if I am making them, it is because I can, and I want to--oh, how much better truth tastes.
I have faith that what I have to give today is enough, even if sometimes I must say no. I love that when I say yes, I will mean it.
So, this season I come bearing my own gifts. I tell you what I can and can't do, and let you, in turn, tell me. And together we sing my favorite Christmas song, the Peace Carol.